Back to school in Syria as threat of U.S. strike subsides

Reuters

(This article was reported by a journalist in Damascus whose name is withheld for security reasons)

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Thousands of Syrian school children started their academic year on time on Sunday after concern that schools would not open on schedule due to threats of a U.S. military strike.

In Damascus, many school buildings had been transformed into barracks to house personnel fleeing military sites that could be targets in a strike that U.S. President Barack Obama said would be punishment for an alleged chemical attack on August 21.

By Sunday morning most soldiers had moved out, in a sign that President Bashar al-Assad's government no longer fears strikes following a deal negotiated by the United States and Russia under which he would destroy his chemical arsenal.

The streets of Damascus were busy again on Sunday after weeks of anticipation of military action. Some major roads were gridlocked with traffic.

Hundreds of girls poured out of Satea al Hosari all-girls middle school in west Damascus at 1 p.m. (6:00 a.m. EDT), carrying their newly issued text books in white plastic bags and looking for their parents or school buses.

"It's been a long summer, and the kids have been cooped up at home for too long and I'm happy to have them out of the house and back into their routine," said Mayse, a mother of three, as she waited outside the school to pick up her daughter.

When her daughter came out, she told her mother about friends who had not shown up to school because they had left town, and others whose families were considering leaving.

Since talk of an imminent military strike against Syria last month, many families fled Syria to neighboring Lebanon and some decided to stay there for the school year.

Reflecting the turmoil in the economy, school uniforms are now three to five times as expensive as they were before the revolt started.

VULNERABLE

As Washington talked of a military strike in response to the August 21 incident, the conspicuous presence of soldiers and armed security men in densely populated residential neighborhoods left many Damascenes worried.

Some complained that the military appeared to be taking shelter amid civilians to use them as human shields.

At the start of the month, rebels situated on the edge of the city fired a mortar bomb at Hosari school but it hit a nearby apartment block, residents said.

Nearby shop owners said the soldiers' presence made them vulnerable to attacks and that they were disconcerted by the men with guns in their neighborhood.

Soldiers and state security housed in schools appeared to go to lengths to keep low profile and minimize engagement with local civilians, to avoid any antagonism.

Groups of armed men could be seen behind school gates sitting about in the courtyard, sipping tea and playing cards with their assault rifles on the floor by their side.

One janitor at an elementary school said the men were there until Saturday when "they packed up and left."

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

View Comments (5)

Recommended for You

  • US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday he had found one of Japan's biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II. Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the…

    AFP
  • Pre-teen who called out Obama gets kicked off Facebook

    Pearson, under Facebook’s minimum age requirement of 13, was upset to find out that he was locked out of his account. After failing to get into his personal page, he created a new one, according to a Fox News blog post. “Due to the fact that approximately 7.5 million kids (under the age of 13) log…

    Christian Science Monitor59 mins ago
  • Central Florida man killed by police serving search warrant

    By Barbara Liston ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - A 26-year-old Central Florida man died after being shot in the face early on Wednesday morning by a sheriff’s deputy attempting to serve a search warrant in a narcotics investigation, authorities said. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office reported in a…

    Reuters
  • 175-Pound Pit Bull Hulk Shatters Misconceptions About the Breed

    This dog just may be the world's largest Pit Bull. Only 18-months-old, Hulk weighs a hefty 175 pounds. He's also best friends with a 3-year-old boy.

    ABC News
  • Chad president tells Boko Haram leader to surrender or face death

    By Madjiasra Nako N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - President Idriss Deby of Chad said on Wednesday he knew the whereabouts of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, and called on him to surrender or risk being killed. Chad's army has waged a series of battles against Boko Haram…

    Reuters
  • Australians on Indonesia death row arrive on execution island

    Two Australian drug smugglers were taken Wednesday to an Indonesian island where they will be executed despite frantic diplomatic efforts to save them, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was "revolted" by their looming deaths. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the…

    AFP
  • Student Shot With BB Gun On Campus Shocked by University`s Reaction

    A student at Norfolk State University says she was shot with a BB gun and hit with a bottle of urine outside of a all-male dorm room on campus, but says the school offered little help to her or other students when she contacted them.

    Tribune
  • U.S. may review 1959 airplane crash that killed Buddy Holly

    (Reuters) - U.S. transportation safety investigators said on Wednesday they are reviewing a request to reopen a probe into the 1959 airplane crash that killed musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson, better known as "The Big Bopper," and their pilot. The original investigation 56…

    Reuters
  • Mom convicted of killing son, 5, by poisoning him with salt

    WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A woman who blogged for years about her son's constant health woes was convicted Monday of poisoning him to death by force-feeding heavy concentrations of sodium through his stomach tube.

    Associated Press
  • Barcelona to meet Athletic Bilbao in Cup final

    Madrid (AFP) - Barcelona eased into the Copa del Rey final as they completed a 6-2 aggregate win over Villarreal with a 3-1 win at El Madrigal on Wednesday.

    AFP6 mins ago
  • 'Thousands' of Russian troops in east Ukraine: US envoy

    The United States' senior envoy to Europe alleged Wednesday that Russia had deployed "thousands and thousands" of troops to neighboring Ukraine. Speaking to a congressional foreign affairs committee, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland also told US lawmakers that Russia was flooding…

    AFP
  • Couple plead not guilty to locking up kids 22 hours a day

    JEFFERSON, Ohio (AP) — A husband and wife accused of making three of their adopted children virtual prisoners inside their Ohio home pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a case that began after prosecutors say two girls crashed the family van while trying to make their escape.

    Associated Press
  • Majority of Americans now support marijuana legalization, survey shows

    For the first time, the General Social Survey shows that a majority of Americans support the legalization of cannabis.

    Yahoo News31 mins ago
  • View

    Hello kitty and kitty and lots more kitties on Japanese island where cats rule (17 photos)

    An army of feral cats rules a remote island in southern Japan, curling up in abandoned houses or strutting about in a fishing village that is overrun with felines outnumbering humans six to one. Originally introduced to the mile-long island of Aoshima to deal with mice that plagued fishermen's…

    Yahoo News
  • Killers sought in deaths of 300,000 chickens in South Carolina

    By Harriet McLeod CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Revenge may be the motive for the killings in South Carolina of more than 300,000 commercial chickens worth about $1.7 million over the past two weeks, authorities said on Monday. Birds have been found dead of unnatural causes in 16 chicken houses at…

    Reuters
  • Georgia police officer killed in shootout

    By David Beasley ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia police officer was killed in a shootout with a suspect in suburban Atlanta early on Wednesday, authorities said. Officers went to investigate reports of shots in a suburban neighborhood and came under fire about 1:30 a.m. EST, according to the Fulton…

    Reuters
  • Passengers use emergency slides after landing in Denver

    DENVER (AP) — Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, were forced to slide off the plane on emergency chutes soon after landing in Denver on Wednesday.

    Associated Press
  • Americans Love K-Cups, but Their Creator Regrets Inventing Them

    Now it seems that John Sylvan, the inventor of the tiny containers, is firmly on Team #KillTheKCup too. “No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” said Sylvan.

    Takepart.com